A/N: The “Tight Sphincters 'R Us” comment is a shoutout to Jolene Blalock, who provided 3500 people with great amusement last weekend at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, which may have set a world record for the number of times “Sphincter” was used in a single weekend.
Needless to say, the convention was not entirely PG-13.
Also, Papillion, Nebraska was chosen because my friends live there, not because I know of any psychokinesis occurring there.
Finally, this chapter is dedicated to the Beckinator (Sorry, Wayno and Your Tracyocity) who is the best boss I ever had and is, in fact, so cool that if someone offed her and was after me, I totally think she'd come back as a poltergeist to protect me from the lunatic.
The next few weeks pass mostly without incident. Blevins is silent on the subject of our report that says nothing at all about Ruby. Scully doesn't bring up Samantha. I make quiet plans to drive to Chilmarc for the candlelight vigil that I probably won't follow through with. Our lives go on.
One thing is that Scully doesn't object when I file Ruby under “Alien Abduction” rather than “Inconclusive”. I regard this as progress.
One late afternoon in the middle of September, we are both called into Blevins' office. He greets us with a scowl and a “Come in and sit down, agents.”
Which we do.
“I have a case for you,” he says, which floors me and probably just about gives Scully a stroke.
“What kind of case, sir?” I ask, sure he's setting me up.
“I can't tell you.”
What? “May I ask why?”
National Security. I hate those words sometimes. Most of the time. All the time.
“Sir,” Scully asks, “what is it you need us to do?”
“I just want you to go to the Bethesda Naval Hospital and have a look at a couple of bodies.”
Okay, no problem.
“At eleven o'clock tonight.”
“Sir?” Scully sounds as flummoxed as I am.
“We need to maintain constant vigilance, Agent. The hospital should be nearly deserted at eleven o'clock tonight. You will report to the morgue and meet three agents there who will brief you on whatever you're cleared to know.”
“Which agents?” I ask, wondering if it's anyone I know.
“Not FBI,” he elaborates. “Dismissed.”
I make it out to the elevator before Scully recovers from her annoyance enough to let me really say anything at all, and even then she's tense. She doesn't like what happened in there. I can tell. I don't either, really. Not one bit.
“Mulder,” she finally tells me, “don't start thinking conspiracy.”
This is the very definition of conspiracy.
“There's nothing you can do,” she adds. “We have to trust that there's a good reason not to tell us what's going on.”
I know that – in theory. I also know I'm sick of getting the runaround, and I'm really sick of Blevins. Hopefully, I won't have to be sick of Blevins much longer, because the rumor is he's due for a promotion. God knows he a master of blowing smoke out his ass.
The elevator lets us out in the basement. It's after five, so I'm really only here to get my stuff and go. We walk into the office in silence, gather our things, and then leave for the parking lot. It's not until I'm about to get in my car that I realize that not only have I been mentally bitching Scully out for her silence, I haven't said anything at all.
“Scully-” I begin, but I can't finish that thought because I don't know where it leads. “I'll see you tonight.”
When we arrive at the hospital, we are greeted by a guard (Secret Service? CIA? MIB? IMF, for all I can tell) who leads us into a morgue without saying a word. The door closes behind him and there we are, standing in cold storage with two women – one in a tan suit and one in a lab coat and scrubs – and a man – black man, black suit - who look like they shop at Tight Sphincters 'R Us. “Agent Scully, Agent Mulder, Chief Blevins assures us of your cooperation. We regret any inconvenience at this extreme hour,” the Man in Black says.
Yeah, I could've had a date.
“We hope your expertise in extraordinary phenomena matters will help us in our investigation,” adds Tan Suit.
I wonder if I can get anything out of them. “You're not FBI, are you?”
“Have you ever seen anything like this before?” asks Lab Coat. That would be a “no,” then. Or given my reputation, maybe a “yes”. She hands me the guy's chart and pulls the sheet off one of the corpses for Scully to look at while I try and fail not to flinch. The body also flinches. “Abnormal postmortem muscle reflex. Both corpses are still responding to high levels of electrostatic charge.”
“Any sign of external legions or surface burns?” asks Scully, frowning at the body.
Huh. I manage to look at the body without wincing. The worst part about this is that the body used to be a person – and now it's not. It's something else. You find yourself wondering about the person who lived here, what they ate, who they loved, when they stopped doing any of those things. “Time of death?”
She glances at Man in Black and Tan Suit, but Man in Black just blinks.
“Well, it can't be long,” says Scully. “The body's still warm.”
“Somatic death occurred sometime over 6 hours ago. Their body temperatures have yet to drop below 98.3 degrees.”
That's weird. Right? I'm not a pathologist, but I say that's weird. “Where did you find them?” I ask. Nothing. Man in Black doesn't even blink this time. “Look, at least tell us the mode of transport!” I raise my voice and yank off my glasses. “That might tell us why the bodies haven't cooled.” While they're out of the picture I take the opportunity to press the index finger and thumb of the nearest corpse's left hand onto the right and left lenses, respectively. Man, Tan, and Lab say nothing. It was a long shot anyway. I just keep yelling. “Hey, you called us down here. If you want some answers you have to give some.”
“They traveled 60 minutes by air,” says Man. That's about a 500 mile radius. And also doesn't explain why they're still warm.
“Thank you,” I say, because it's polite and I just stole his evidence right under his nose.
“The most troubling aspect of their deaths is the throat area,” says Lab, walking over to an X-Ray screen. Is she a doctor? She talks like one. “The larnyx, esophagus, and hyoid bone all have been crushed like chalk. There is no evidence of tissue damage. It's as if their throats were crushed... from the inside.”
Well, that sums it up. Crushed from the inside. Not cryptic. Psychokinesis? It has all the elements of psychokinesis, but I've never seen this exact MO before. We both get a good look at the X-Ray and sure enough, even I can tell it's not normal. Scully winces. “Who are these guys?”I ask, but I don't expect an answer.
“If you've conducted your investigation, why consult us?” asks Scully.
“During your work on the X Files, have you ever seen anything like this?” asks Tan.
Yeah, I eat this for breakfast. Right. “Never.” Well there was that one thing, but it's probably nothing. And certainly nothing I'm gonna tell three people in a darkened morgue at eleven o'clock at night when they won't even tell me their aliases.
The man pipes up again. “Well, thank you for your time Agent Mulder, Scully. If any inquiry into this meeting be made, we request full denial.”
“I'd say you people already suffer from full denial,” I tell them before I grab Scully – okay, guide Scully – out of the room and we leave them to their mysterious corpses.
Out in the hall, the guard is gone. We walk back to our cars, and Scully rounds on me. “You lied. You have seen it before, I can tell. You lied to them.”
Shocked? “I would never lie. I willfully participated in a campaign of misinformation.”
“Who do you think they were?”
The Vatican Police? I don't know. Personally, I want to say the Impossible Mission Force, but somehow I doubt she'd take that seriously. “NSA, CIA, some convert organization Congress will uncover in the next scandal.” It doesn't matter anyway, really. “It's not important who they are but what they have and I'm sure they have no idea because they pulled us in. I have X Files. Each case with an element of what we saw tonight. Residual electrostatic charge, internal mutilation without any external causality... but none has all the elements combined in one case.”
“How can the esophagus be crushed without the neck even being touched?”
Here we go. I love this part. “Psychokinetic manipulation,” I whisper.
Let the games begin. “Psychokinesis? You mean how Carrie got even at the prom?” She is trying really hard to keep her face straight, in her defense.
I love working with Scully, I realize, and it hits me like a ton of bricks. I love working with Scully. “The Russians were doing studies on it. The Chinese still are. Their findings are kept secret.” We get in the elevator down to ground level, and Scully draws in a deep breath and then lets it out. I love telling her this stuff.
“Okay, I'm intrigued. How can we investigate, we have nothing to go on.” I put an arm around her and ignore the flinching as I hold the glasses up to my face and breathe on each lens.
So we go back to work the next morning and have the prints run on a pair of glasses in an evidence bag that have a fascinating resemblance to my reading glasses. Ten minutes later the result pops up on the computer in the print lab and Scully's run off his file.
“Mohamed Amalaki. Convictions: Illegal possession of firearms. Illegal possession of explosives. Falsification of export licenses.”
“He has ties to extremist group operating in the US. The Isfahan. They take their name from a city in Iran. Recently they've been working out of Philadelphia.” Scully's already on page two.
Bingo. “That's 60 air minutes.”
One little phone call should do it all. “I'll talk to the Philly P.D,” she says, and heads back downstairs.
I have no idea what she said to them, but she comes back twenty minutes later saying a desk sargeant told her that there was an ATM robbery recently where the robbers dropped dead. I guess everyone's talking about it.
In the end, it's all too easy to get travel approval to Philly. All I had to do was write a 302 for a psychokinesis case, and it sailed through without Blevins even noticing. He must have gotten held up doing some asskissing or something, because that's not like him.
But whatever. Who am I to complain?
The next day, we fly to Philadelphia and rent a car, and from the airport we drive to a nameless motel and from there to the local PD without Blevins even knowing what we're up to which is just how I like it.
The desk sergeant sends us to a Detective Ericsson, who sits behind his desk and frowns at us in the PD's own version of a bullpen.
“Can I help you?” he asks, when he realizes who we're here for.
Scully flashes her I.D. “This is Agent Mulder, I'm Agent Scully. I'm here to ask you about a case.”
“What can do I have that could possibly be of any interest to you?” he asks – and not without a little hostility.
“It was a possible ATM robbery,” she begins, and his whole demeanor changes.
“You're here about that?”
I step in. “We were hoping to take a look, if you don't mind.” One look at his face says he doesn't mind at all.
“Mind? I'm relieved.”
That's a new one on me. “How so?”
He pulls out the file, which we've already read, but the crime scene photos are a lot less grainy. “It's just... spooky,” he admits, “and it makes no sense. If you want it, it's all yours.”
This is not a reaction I get often, and I don't know how to deal with it.
Scully scans through the file. “Is there a way we could see the crime scene?”
“Sure,” he replies, “I'll even have the officer who found the bodies take you down there.”
So an officer by the name of Officer Packard drives us down in his squad car – I have to ride in the back, like a criminal – to an alley downtown, where there is, for some reason that completely escapes me, an ATM that only a crazy person would use at night – or someone with a death wish.
He drives us up to the entrance of the alley and we get out of the car. It smells like a dumpster, and I've avoided alleys since I tried my hand at sleeping in one.
“Where, exactly, did you find them?” asks Scully.
“It was last Wednesday night. I was on routine patrol. This is where we found them,” he points to an area on the ground in front of the ATM.
“Who discovered their bodies?” she asks.
“Nobody. It was about 10. I was on patrol. Just saw them hanging around.” Literally. They were hanging around off a fire escape. “The folks that come around here, they don't witness very much. You hear what I'm saying?”
The file doesn't even say for sure it's a robbery, just “found in the vicinity of an ATM.” Well, no kidding – it's the only thing in this alley. That and the scared-looking woman using it.
What kind of lunatic would use it in the middle of the night I'll never understand.
“If they were trying to rob someone, it would show up on the ATM camera,” says Scully.
It's a place to start.
We drive over to the local FBI and I call US Bank, and sure enough, they can get us the footage. Someone messengers a video to us and we get a room to look it over. The notes with the video show the procedure the ATM uses – it can't record everything all the time.
“A daily visual record is made of everyone who makes a transaction,” I inform Scully, translating the technobabble into something resembling English. Scully's reading the other page – the list of people who used the ATM that day.
“We'll just have to interview everyone who was at the machine before 10 last night,” says Scully, but of course that's rendered moot when we see footage of a woman using the machine and then grabbed by two men and dragged away.
Kind of a giveaway.
It's the entry at 9:45, I note, but Scully is already flipping through the list. “There. Back up,” I mutter, even though I'm holding the remote. Scully, next to me, gasps.
It's on the rewind that I see a blur on the screen – a fourth person? Behind the poor woman getting attacked.
What the hell?
It's there, just for a second, and then it's gone.
“Lauren Kyte. 858 Franklin, Bensalem. Why would the Isfahan being robbing someone for 40 bucks at an ATM machine?”
Not another person. It is just there for a second – it looks like a ghost. “Look at that.” I stop the film and watch it sit there. It's man-shaped, but it only shows for a second or two.
“It's another person.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” I reply, but I don't think it is.
“Well, the resolution is too poor. It won't help much to enhance it.”
On this we are agreed. “That leaves only one person we know we can talk to.”
And so we drive to 858 Franklin, Bensalem, to see Lauren Kyte. There's a U-haul trailer outside her house, which gives me the impression that she's planning to move, so we'd better move fast here. I don't know how long we'll have her.
I knock on the door and listen for footsteps, a pause, and then -
“Miss Lauren Kyte, please,” I say, and the door opens, revealing the woman in the video. She's just a kid, I realize, and I flash my badge. “I'm Agent Fox Mulder and this is Agent Dana Scully. We're with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Do you mind if we come in?” I'm not taking no for an answer.
“Um, I was just in the middle of ...”
“Thank you. We won't be long.” I squeeze my way past her, and Scully follows. She's good cop this time, and I don't even have to ask. Out comes the file, and next thing we know, Lauren's looking at her attackers.
“Have you seen either of these two men before?”
“No.” Not “maybe,” not “I don't know,” just “no”? Yeah, right.
“Take your time,” Scully prompts.
“I'm sorry. I've never seen them before.”
Yeah-huh. Scully pulls out the surveillance photo from the ATM. I love ATMs. “I'm afraid you have. This is a surveillance picture from your ATM.”
Silence. As it should be. She just lied to the FBI – not that I intend to push it. “Can you tell us what happened that night?”
“Um... These guys, I was depositing my paycheck. They grabbed me, I got away. I ran. I just didn't want to file a report.”
“They were found dead,” I tell her, and she does that freezing thing people do where they aren't freezing at all.
Scully pulls out the blowup of the background figure in the video. “Have you ever seen this person before?”
“No. I'm sorry. I can't tell you.”
Not 'I don't know.' Hmmm. “Does that mean you know?”
“It means I can't tell you who it is.”
Uh huh. She knows something. I pull out my card and hand it to her. “When you can tell me, this is the number where I can be reached at any time, okay?”
So we walk out her door, and I don't know about Scully but I am totally dissatisfied.
We make it to the car almost before Scully starts poking holes in Lauren's story. “A woman her size breaking free and outrunning those men?”
“And somehow crushing their necks?” We get in the car and put on the seat belts, and when I look up I can see Lauren watching out the window. Creepy.
“She knows who the other person in that photo is.”
Yes she does. “Packing, running away, from what?” I start the car. Time to look into Lauren Kyte.
And that's when the parking brake goes off, the car reverses, and the doors lock.
Without us touching them.
Even as I'm panicking, there is a part of me, in the back of my mind, saying “Explain this, Scully.” Even as the car spins backward and Scully yells, “What the hell's going on?” and I tell her to hang on while I pump the brakes and we back into an intersection where we are hit by another car. Even then, I want her to explain it.
But I settle for, “You okay?”
The other driver is shaking his head and looking around, so I assume he's alive. And Lauren closes her curtains. I guess she's done watching.
They took the car to the garage and put us in separate ambulances to get checked out. By the time they tell me I'm okay to leave, Scully's still getting looked at, so I duck over to where they're checking her heart rate. “Everything okay?” I ask her, since she's a doctor and the paramedics are... not.
“Mulder, I'm fine. They're worried because my blood pressure dropped.”
That doesn't sound good.
“But I'm fine.”
“You're sure?” I ask her. This is the second car-related accident-like-thing she's been in since she met me.
“It's nothing,” she tells me. “They just have to cover all the bases. Go check out what's up with the car.”
I nod at her. Message received. “Meet you at the garage?”
“Okay,” she sighs as a paramedic named Ramirez slides the blood pressure cuff back onto her arm.
The cop who gave me a ride to the FBI garage has to go back on patrol, so it's just me there chatting with the mechanic until we get the green light to do whatever it is we're gonna do. He's a skinny guy with really really blond hair, and he doesn't have a high opinion of Fords.
“Fix Or Repair Daily,” he tells me, glaring at the car as it is raised up above our heads so we can see underneath it. “Fords are the most unreliable cars on the planet. They don't have the proper inspections before they leave the factory, the parts are substandard, everything's about cutting costs instead of making a quality vehicle...” he trails off as he examines something. “Nothing wrong with this one though.”
“What?” I'm dumbfounded – especially the way it acted.
“Not a thing. Yet. Only a hundred miles on it. All brand new. Not that there wouldn't be, mind you, there's just nothing wrong with it yet.” He pushes the button to lower it down and I examine the side panel with the sizeable dent in it. Nothing wrong indeed. “I have to go back to work now,” he adds. “I'll be around if you have any more questions.” I keep staring at the dent, trying to convince myself that I shouldn't be surprised.
It just happened so fast.
The headlights are reflecting off the inside of the garage door. I stare at it for ten seconds before the meaning of that hits me. The car is turned off.
“Hey!” I call after the mechanic. What is his name?
He turns back. “Help you?”
He frowns, walks around to the front of the car, and frowns some more. “That's weird.”
You don't say.
Well, it did.
“I guess there must be a faulty connection. The battery's still connected to the headlights. Maybe an electrical problem, locked the doors, made the car go. Only one problem with that.”
“What's that?” I am forced to ask. I don't really know cars.
“Cars don't work like that. Power locks, maybe, but they can't put themselves in reverse.” He opens the hood and disconnects the battery. The headlights stay on. “No, this has to be the filaments themselves. Must still be heated from some electrical charge somehow.”
How? “How does that happen?” I ask him.
“No idea.” He walks away again.
So it's like the bodies. Psychokinesis seems more and more likely – especially with Lauren staring at us during the accident. Creepy. Better wear a suit of armor next time I see her. Or maybe just go without a tie – somehow a noose seems like a stupid idea around a psychokinetic.
This should be fun to explain to Scully.
I move back to look at the door. Dented like crazy. There's no way around it – I could have been killed. Maybe should have been killed. I reach inside and start switching the lights on and off. They stay on.
Scully's back, I realize. “Hi. The paramedics check you out?”
“Yeah. I'm fine. Except I have a waiting-in-line-at-the-DMV-sized headache.”
Mine's kinda killing me too. I leave the lights off. “Mine's more IRS sized.”
“They check out the car?”
And here we go. Let the games begin. “Yeah, it's brand new. Only a 100 miles.”
“Then someone tampered with it while we were in her house.”
I walk around to the front of the car. “Mechanic said everything is in proper order. Nothing cut, nothing greased. Check out the lights.” And here we go.
“They are on.”
“They're not. The filaments are heated due to massive levels of electrostatic charge. Just like the bodies at the morgue. And isn't it interesting that Lauren Kyte was present at both incidents?”
“She was in our presence the entire time we were at her house,” says Scully. Clearly she doesn't get it.
Well somehow she did this. “What if it's possible somehow to raise a body's electrostatic charge to levels we've been seeing and use that energy to affect objects?”
“If a person could generate that much energy, their body would break down. They'd start glowing like those lights.”
I've seen these files. “Well there's evidence of this all through the X Files.” Papillion, Nebraska. “Furniture moving untouched, objects levitating, unexplained electrical discharges.” That was a fun case – and before her time. “Frequently people who have psychokinetic power are unaware of their own capability.”
“Are you saying Lauren Kyte crashed our car?”
Well who else? “Either that or a poltergeist.”
Scully glares at me and singsongs “They're here...” just like on Poltergeist. Cute.
So I adopt my most serious voice. “They may be.”
She pops the trunk and we grab our suitcases. “Oh, come on Mulder, look at the tangible evidence.” Yep, I love working with her. “Two Mid-East extremists are killed trying to assault a woman working for a manufacturer of parts for the Defense Department. While we questioned her our car is sabotaged.” Or not sabotaged. “Now in both those cases, someone else may have committed those acts. Maybe the same someone we saw in those ATM photos.” We put our suitcases in the new car she brought with her. “The mystery isn't psychokinetic energy, it's her accomplice.” In the time she's ranted, the lights have finally gone out.
At least, either way, the course of action is the same. “So, Scully, what say we stake out Lauren Kyte?”
We pull her record through the FBI and scan through it in the parking lot of her work. I do the spying and Scully does the reading, and this time she makes me use my binoculars, which up to this point were exclusively meant for the spotting of UFOs. Anyway, we park outside HTG Industrial Technologies and wait. Lauren pulls up ten minutes later and walks across the parking lot as Scully reads the file. “She's clean. No arrest, not even a traffic ticket. The only thing is, she's in deep with her credit card company... $15,000.” Typical.
Lauren stops where someone is changing the name on an assigned parking space. I can't really hear what she's saying, but there's a lot of angry gestures and closed body language. The name on the space, I can see, was Howard Graves.
“A little upset over losing a parking space, wouldn't you say?” I ask Scully. Especially when it's not even Lauren's space. “So, who is Howard Graves anyway?”
More microfiche, more Dramamine. The headline we eventually find is “Howard Graves Suicide Creates Shock.” He also worked at HTG.
The pieces begin to fall into place for me. “She was his secretary.” Scully, master of the file, doesn't correct me. “That's three people dead in the last month all associated with Lauren Kyte.” Also a fact. Can't deny that, eh Scully. The article goes on to say that 'ol Howard slashed his wrists in the bathtub. Ugh. I've always hated that one.
When we pick Lauren back up at the end of her workday, she drives to the cemetery to put flowers on a grave. After she leaves, we check it out to discover that it's Howard Graves' grave.
Now I've had some bosses who weren't assholes, but I wouldn't put flowers on their graves if they died. Life would go on. Most of them, I'd actually celebrate. “You don't see too many bosses graves without people dancing on it,” I remark, mostly to hear what Scully'll say to that.
“Look at this one.” Scully is looking at the stone next to Howard's: “Sarah Lynn Graves September 8, 1966 to August 3 1969".
There is groundskeeper nearby, and I turn to him. “Excuse me, Sir? Is there an office here so that I can get information on those people?” There has to be.
“Who? I attend every funeral. I'm the last person to see them put to rest.” He has one of those incredibly quiet creepy voices.
Did you attend one in 1969? Somehow I believe that you did. “Do you know how Sarah Lynn was related to Howard Graves?”
“His daughter. They were at home one day and he didn't latch the pool gate. She drowned. His wife left him a year later. She's buried in a plot in the Northeast corner.” Creepy.
Poor Howard. “Thank you, Sir.”
“You're welcome.” He walks away, and Scully and I both turn to look at Sarah's grave.
“She was only three years old,” says Scully.
She was born the same year as Lauren Kyt.e. “If she'd lived, she'd be Lauren's age.” Scully looks at me and I look back and I think she understands what I'm saying – the same way I have a soft spot in my heart for women who would be Sam's age – roughly Scully's age, actually. You can't blame me – and you can't blame Howard if he did the same thing.
It's in our natures.
After a full day of surveillance, Scully and I fly home. Or at least Scully goes home, but I took darkroom photography in college and so I go into the photo lab to do the surveillance photos. It's soothing and calming and all those things I usually don't bother with, but tonight... tonight I want to.
I drop the photos into the fixer one at a time, hoping for something. Anything. A shadow, a face, a flicker of light. Proof of something. I'm so sick of having nothing, of Scully staring at me like I've gone nuts. She has an explanation for everything – Tooms crawled in an improperly latched window, Ellens Air Base had a good hypnotist, the Jersey Devil had some serious psychological issues, and so on and so forth.
So yeah, I can't help it. I want to prove it to her. Sue me for being a typical guy, only this time it's not about sports teams and who's winning the NBA playoffs and things like that. No, not for Fox Mulder. This is about psychokinesis. What can I say? It's just who I am, and I make no apologies. And I don't mind watching the playoffs either.
I work through the night, developing the damn things. It's not until the next morning, around three, that I get a good look. There is someone in the house with Lauren.
Okay, not someone. A shape behind her, in one photo of her standing at the window. So it's probably not psychokinesis then. Dammit, I hate when Scully's right.
But if it's not psychokinesis, what is it? Someone sneaked out and did something to our car the mechanic couldn't detect? No, something's still fishy. I just wish I knew what.
When Scully gets in, I'll have her come up to get the photo analyzed.
I wander back down to the bullpen and check my email. There's the report Scully wrote on our trips – she's taken to keeping me update on what she's ratting to Blevins, in case there's something I want her to reword. Not that she'll necessarily do that, but at least forewarned is forearmed. This time I have to admit she's done a good job making it look like we didn't go over Blevins' stupid head.
“After hearing rumors of suspicious electrical activity surrounding deaths in the Philadelphia area, Agent Mulder and I decided to investigate and offer assistance to the Philadelphia PD, after a brief conversation with local police secured us an invitation to work on the case. During that time, we were attacked via sabotage of our rented car. Although we sustained no serious injuries, both Agent Mulder and myself are determined to find the identity of our attacker.”
Good-no mention of the bodies we saw at Bethesda. Let Blevins wonder.
“Investigation of the deaths led us to a witness, a woman named Lauren Kyte – an employee at a company called HTG Industries - who had recently lost her boss to an apparent suicide. Miss Kyte has a clean background with no indications of affiliation with any suspicious activities or groups, however we believe our attacker was attached to her in some way.”
Scully promised to do a more detailed background check on Lauren when we got home, but we know she's not sacrificing animals and she doesn't belong to the Istafhan.
“Further investigation into Lauren Kyte's personal history reveals an estrangement from her family. Phone records confirm no contact with her parents for the last two years. Her actions observed during surveillance indicate a strong relationship between Lauren Kyte and her employer, the late Howard Graves.”
And now we get to the meat of it. He was like a father to her – the father she's not in touch with. And he had lost a daughter. They must have been very close, I suppose, but not in a sexual way. What would he have done to protect her? And why the hell did he kill himself anyway?
“Was this relationship somehow the motivation for his suicide? How are the attack and the subsequent murders of the Isfahan agents related, if at all? I am certain that the answers to these questions lie in finding the identity of Lauren Kyte's accomplice.”
Quite a leap, Scully, but we don't have any reason to think Lauren's innocent – or guilty.
I hate this not knowing.
She comes in at eight, while I'm going over the bank robberies for the thousandth time, trying to predict the robbers' next move. I'm getting nowhere except a headache, and I don't notice when the door opens.
“Mulder, how long have you been here?”
Long enough to have to change into the extra shirt I keep in the closet. “A while. I developed the surveillance photos.”
She nods, once, enough to tell me she at least suspects I didn't sleep last night. “Anything good?”
Would the photo lab be in yet? I glance at my watch. “I don't know yet. We need to have it enhanced.” It's only 8:15 – they might be in already. I pull out the photo. “There.”
“Mulder, that could be a coat rack.”
I suppose it could, except- “I didn't see a coat rack when we were there.”
She sighs. Deeply.
“I just want to have it analyzed, that's all,” I add.
She nods again. “That's probably a good idea.” She punches in some numbers on the phone and waits for a minute. “Hi, it's Agent Scully – Good. How are you?”
She knows the photo lab?
“We have a surveillance photo we want a closer look at, is now a good time? Really? Great, we'll be up in ten. Yes, Mulder too.” Ouch. “It could be nothing, but it's the only lead we- yes, yes, I know. No, it's not small and green.”
I can see where this is going.
“An ottoman? Really? Well, this definitely isn't an ottoman.”
They had to bring that up, didn't they.
“Thanks,” she says, “I'll see you later. Coffee next week?” She hangs up the phone.
Scully has coffee with someone in the photo lab?
We get up there and meet a technician named Malcolm Jones, Scully's friend. Not what I expected. He looks like her father.
“Agent Mulder? Hi, Malcolm Jones.” He shakes our hands. “It's good to see you, Dana.” She squirms a little bit. “This the picture you needed?” He takes it from me and looks it over. “Yeah, that looks like something. Let me see here, we can set you up right over here -” he gestures to a comptuer with two chairs in front of it - “ and I'll just scan this puppy in -” he puts it in a scanner and presses the green button - “ and the program should load. Have you used photo imaging software before?”
Yes, I have, and so has Scully. She nods, since it doesn't sound like he'll stop talking anytime soon.
“It has a built in enchancer that automatically renders everything in the sharpest possible focus. Sometimes we only have a few pixels to work with. Right now I'm on this bank robbery case, and the security camera pictures are just atrocious. We only got a few usable images.”
“That Willis' case?” I ask him.
“Yeah, real stinker, can't see anything you need to on those cameras. Banks really should be the first people to upgrade.”
Probably true. “Thanks,” I tell him, because they've gotten some pretty clear images off those crappy cameras. He sits down in the chair in front of the computer and I take the other one while Scully stands behind. He types in a few instructions and it zooms in on the window.
That's definitely something. In fact, it's a blurry person. I wait to see what Scully's gonna say.
“That looks like something,” Jones tells me. “Let's see if we can clear it up.”
A few more keys are pressed and a bar marked “enhancing” pops up.
“Enhance it by 10,” says Scully. How much does she know about this? And why the hell is this guy doing her bidding? Malcolm Jones clicks on the number 10. A face appears. But not just any face. No siree. “That's Howard Graves. He's alive.” Scully, master of the scientific standard of obvious.
Huh. Somehow, I doubt that. They tend to be pretty clear on people's deaths when they cut them open in the morgue. “Not necessarily.”
“He's standing right there.”
Yes he is. “You may have been right about the poltergeist,” I tell her, because I don't know how else this is possible. I mean, by Scully's rules, it's not possible.
“Mulder, that's him. He's alive.”
Fine, Scully, you think he's alive? Let's check. “Okay, who do we call about that?” I could find out, but she'll know.
She frowns. “The doctor who autopsied him,” she says, but it sounds more like a question, almost. And then she swallows and turns back to Jones. “Thanks so much, Malcolm. We owe you.”
He smiles. “Just buy the coffee next time, Dana, and we're even.” He nods over to another area of the room. “If you'll excuse me -” He goes back to work.
Is he flirting with her?
Is she flirting back?
So we drive back to Philadelphia, which is 90 minutes of License Plate Game, and wind up in the local offices of the National Medical Examiners. Apparently, the National Medical Examiners Office is essentially where they keep the coroners when they're in a city where they have one of these offices. Which I did not need to know ever before and probably never will again.
We check in and walk down to the basement, because even in Forensic Bureaucrat Heaven, autopsies must be conducted in the most dreary place possible. Scully is looking for someone whose name she saw in the Graves file, whose office is down here – somewhere.
I still think she should just let go and admit that Graves was a ghost, but I think we all know she won't do that. She can't.
Ghosts are pretty out there. I'm the first to admit that.
And if someone had been in the house I think we would have noticed while we were watching. I know that, and so does Scully, so I have to push her buttons a bit.
“Scully, don't you think it's plausible that maybe just maybe Howard Graves is a ghost?”
She doesn't spare me a second glance. “I think Howard Graves faked his own death.”
Uh huh. “Do you know how difficult it is to fake your own death? Only one man has pulled it off, Elvis.”
She ignores the King.
“He and Lauren Kyte are in on something. Maybe an illegal deal through his company. Something the CIA was interested in.”
Possibly true. “You may be right.” She stops in front of a door. Ellen Bledsoe, ME. She may be right, which is why we're here. Just one teeny little problem.
“Wait, you think I'm right?”
Did I say that? I said may be right. “Sure, all you got to do is prove that Howard Graves is still alive.” And with that I knock, cheerfully.
She'll never pull that off.
Ellen Bledsoe invites us in when Scully pulls out her badge, and I let the two of them chat. Scully explains her medical background, Bledsoe nods her way through that, and then Scully pulls surveillance photo, which Bledsoe scans and then nods.
And then Scully drops the bombshell.
“I think he may have faked his death.”
She stares at us.
I love that I'm not the one getting this look.
“Howard Graves is very dead.”
“May we see the autopsy report, please?” Bledsoe pulls out a file and tosses it to us.
“Knock yourself out.”
Scully scans through it. Way more detailed than what we had.
“Cause of death... arterial hemorrhage...”
“4 to 6 liters of blood down the tub.”
“Well there seems to be some blood work missing here,” says Scully.
“We only do that when we suspect homicide.”
Yeah, great. Missing bloodwork is just what will help Scully get past her theory. Maybe it was someone else will be next. An imposter! I'll just beat her to that. “I don't suppose you ran any dental conformation?”
“What for? It was him.”
“How did you know?” Scully asks.
“It said so on the toe tag.”
Yeah. Great. Better and better. And I bet I know what's coming next.
“Who made positive ID on the body?”
But I know.
Scully's the one who says it. “Lauren Kyte.”
And I remember the size of his plot at the cemetery. Not exactly 6x2. “But Howard Graves was cremated. There would be no way to run a dental check or to get a DNA sample.”
But Scully has a little ray of hope. “Yes, there is. His body's tissues and organs were donated.”
Okay, so that could help. “How do we track those down?”
She scans the rest of the page. “Extraction was performed at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. I'll call and talk to someone in the donor program.”
She dials her cellular phone and steps out into the hall, leaving me to sit there with Dr. Bledsoe and try not to fidget, which turns out to be pretty easy, because when Scully's done we'll all know that not only is Howard Graves dead and cremated, but first they cut his organs out, so there's no possible way he could be alive.
I love being right all the time.
Scully steps back into the room. “We have an appointment with a Doctor Ryker in cryogenics in an hour,” she informs me, and then turns back to Dr. Bledsoe. “Thank you for the files. If we need anything else, may I call you?”
Bledsoe takes her leave of Scully and me, to which I barely pay attention, because I'm right and about to be proven it. Howard Graves is dead dead dead, which means that whoever is in Lauren Kyte's hosue that looks like him is definitely either an impostor or a ghost, and I'm pretty sure when he starts walking through walls the ghost bit will seem a lot more likely.
But, I realize as I'm heading to the car, the first part is that I need to get Scully to believe that Howard Graves is dead, so I keep silent except for map reading as we drive across town to the hospital, park the car, and make our way to the cryogenics lab. Even as I want to be doing backflips, I don't say a single word, because this time she is going to admit it – that I am right right right.
And then I may very well start cackling.
But that will be justified.
We take an elevator to the basement, because where else would you have a cryogenics lab, and come to think of it - “Why is it we need a cryogenics lab, Scully?”
“They stored his neural matter for scientific research,” she tells me. “We're going to run a DNA and compare it to the bloodwork from his last physical. That was a week before his death, the hospital still has a sample on file, and it was his personal physician who did the exam – he should know if Howard Graves was really Howard Graves. It's airtight, Mulder.”
Yes, it really does sound that way doesn't it.
We turn a corner and come face to face with a man in a lab coat. “Doctor Ryker?” asks Scully.
“That's me. Agents Scully and... Mulder?”
Wow, she bothered to tell him I'd be coming along.
“That's right,” says Scully, as Ryker and I shake hands. “Have you had time to pull the records for Howard Graves?”
He gestures toward a window in the wall, where we can see hospital employees working. “Howard Graves is in 5 different people. They harvested his organs immediately after death. His kidneys were sent to Boston, his liver to Dallas, and his corneas to Portland, Oregon. They've all been transplanted. Because of his age, we could only cryo-preserve the dura matter, the membrane of the spinal column. We have Mr. Graves' hospital records, we'll extract a sample, run a test and in a couple of hours... confirm the identity of the donor.”
“That should give us the confirmation we need,” Scully tells him. “Thank you.”
And then I'll win.
So we sit in the waiting room in our uncomfortable chairs and wait. And wait and wait and wait. I've never been good at waiting.
Naturally, my phone rings just as they come with the results. I pick up the phone. “Mulder.”
Scully's wrong anyway.
“It's Lauren Kyte. How soon can you get to my house?”
Now she comes forward? Now? “Why?”
“Please hurry.” She hangs up.
I put the phone back in my pocket and turn to Scully. “The tests are conclusive, the dura matter does belong to Howard Graves. He is indeed very dead.”
I win, but it doesn't feel like it.
“That was Lauren Kyte. She said to meet her at her house and then she hung up.”
Scully sighs. “Whatever's going on, we need to get her to tell us what it is. How long do you think, half an hour?”
Or so. “Let's go.” Whatever's in the house has been there at least since Graves died. I should have gotten some salt or something. Holy water, I don't know.
When we get to Lauren's, the screaming can be heard so loud that I don't know how it is the neighbors haven't called the police. I take the front and Scully takes the back. There's a dead woman right behind the door. There is a man hanging from the rafters. Seriously, in the middle of the living room. Lauren is crying in a corner, so I'm guessing she didn't kill him. When Scully comes in, the man falls to the ground and I can see very clearly that he was held up by nothing at all.
Not a poltergeist my ass.
Lauren's crying and clinging to Scully, who is patting her back with one hand and reaching for her cell phone with another, so I decide to ease her burden a bit and pull out my phone. 911 awaits.
We end up taking Lauren in to the police station, even though there's not a shred of evidence she killed anyone, because two people just wound up dead in her home. They stick her in Interrogation, because where else would you talk to a victim of poltergeist activity? The police want to question her, but I'm FBI and what I say goes so Scully and I get first crack at it.
We walk in and I sit down while Scully leans against the wall and waits for me to do my thing so she can jump in and prove that someone could possibly be alive when their dura matter is in cryogenic storage (she'll never be able to prove that).
Lauren continues to shake.
“Lauren?” I ask her. No answer. “Do you mind if we ask you some questions?”
She shrugs. It's a start.
Scully jumps in. “You know, you're not under arrest. You're just here for questioning. The sooner you talk to us the sooner you get to go home.” Nothing. I didn't expect there to be. She's probably thinking if she tells us, we'll think she's crazy. Of course, I have to remind myself, she's half right. “What happened to those people tonight?” Yeah, Scully. That'll help. She thinks you won't believe her. “Do you have any idea who they might be? Why did they attack you?” Let's just throw all the questions at her. I pick up the picture, the one from the ATM that is Howard Graves' ghost and walk around the table, invading her personal bubble without trying to be threatening.
“Do you know who this is?” Which is when Man shows up.
“Scully, Mulder... He'll keep an eye on her.” He motions to the officer who followed him in. “Come. Now.”
We follow him into the hallway, where we find Tan waiting for us, only now she's in a pink suit. Great. Tag-team. “You've seriously compromised our investigation.”
Our investigation has nothing to do with their investigation – I guarantee they're not looking into the paranormal. They're counterterrorism or something. “We were following leads pertaining to an X File,” I explain, which is allowed no matter what they're up to.
“I want to know every detail of your activities concerning this case,” the man says.
Scully, to my shock, jumps in. “What case? You're the ones who've been withholding information.”
Score one for the visiting team. Everyone clams up.
Time to nip this in the bud. “Then we have nothing more to talk about,” I tell them, and we both go tor return to Lauren when I realize they're following us.
They want to talk now. The woman begins. “We believe HTG Technologies was selling restricted parts to the Isfahan. Partial serial numbers from their manifest were recovered in the wreckage of a July bombing of a Navy transport van.”
Well holy shit. I was right. Counterterrorism. “How's Lauren Kyte involved?”
The man answers this time. “We don't quite know. Your actions impeded our investigation.”
Our actions? How could we possibly have interfered? So far we got in a car wreck and tested some donated dura matter. It doesn't matter anyway. “In any case, we don't have enough evidence to hold her. If she doesn't talk, she goes free and we lose our chance to break this company.”
“I could make her talk,” Man says, and he is scary. I don't think this is a good idea.
But he could stand a little bit of the run-around. Still, if I don't warn him, that's manslaughter. “My advice to you: don't get rough with her.”
He doesn't bat an eye, just turns and walks into the interrogation room. I take a chair outside and wait for the screams. Scully sits next to me, and the woman goes in to observe the interrogation. At least there'll be a witness this time to the fact that Lauren's not doing these things.
We wait for twenty minutes before the woman leaves observation and enters the interrogation room. Another forty minutes later, the door to interrogation opens. “That was a waste of time,” the woman is telling her partner. She keeps walking, but the man stops and regards us for a moment with something that looks suspiciously like respect.
“Your turn,” he says, before he follows her off into the sunset.” I love being right.
So we take our turn now, and walk into the room.
Scully begins, cautiously. “Lauren?”
“I won't talk to you, either.”
Occam's Razor. And reverse psychology. “Okay, then you're free to go.” She gets up then, and walks to the door, and then she stops.
“I can't go back to that house.”
Bingo. “Why? Because of Howard Graves?”
Yeah. “I know. He's watching over you, isn't he?”
She does that freezing without freezing thing again. “Yes.” She nods.
And now I get my turn, oh my yes. “Tell us, Lauren. We can help end it.”
She walks until she gets to the corner of the room and leans against the wall, facing us. “Okay.”
Scully hits record.
“I don't know if you've ever been a secretary. Sometimes your boss can talk as if you weren't even in the room, which can hurt, you know? Sometimes... you're all he has to talk to. Which is how it was all the time with me and Howard. One night, late, I went into his office. He was crying, more scared than sad. The Pentagon contracts were being canceled, the company was going under, he felt personally responsible for each of his employees... seeing and feeling their fear every day... it really wore him down. Then this one time, Dorland came with that group... that Mid East group... Isfahan, that terrorist group. They'd buy parts at an outrageous price. Not just once, but for as long as they could get away with it. That night Howard was crying, he'd just found out the Isfahan had just claimed responsibility for killing a couple of sailors in Florida. He was never the same. And I thought that was why he killed himself. But he didn't... I saw ... Howard showed me how Dorland had him killed. Made it look like a suicide because he see Howard was going to put an end to the deal.”
Okay, so Dorland's the bad guy and Howard is trying to – what? “So now Howard is protecting you?”
“It sounds so ridiculous.”
Scully sees the benefit of playing along, at least. “But you believe it.”
“He was closer to me than my father. I told him that. I still feel his presence. Sometimes... I even smell his aftershave. If you just could've ... seen ... the things I've seen... I just... want all that to go away. I'm leaving. Maybe he can move on.”
Scully stands then, and moves to Lauren, and I'm sure it's over. But then she blows me away. “That's not enough. You've been given the chance to tell him again. Take it. Tell him you love him, by showing him, by... helping us finish his unfinished business. Lauren, how will you ever be able to rest if he never can?”
Holy Fucking Shit.
Scully and Lauren nod at each other.
“I'm a mess. I'm um, going to wash up.” Lauren leaves to find a bathroom.
I'm peeling myself off the ceiling. “What are you doing Scully? You don't believe.”
“Mulder, there's no such thing as ghosts or psychokinesis. I'm sure there's an explanation. But I believe that she believes. And my priority is to get to her help us stop Dorland.”
Terrif. Still, she was willing to play along. Not that I have to let her get away with that explanation. “Well we may have just sacrificed our best opportunity to observe spectral phenomena.”
“I'm giving us a chance to solve a case that's tangible instead of chasing after shadows.” She leaves the room too.
Is that what I'm chasing?
I think I can live with that.
Scully gets us all a change of clothes while I recruit the agents we'll need. Man in Black shows up when they tell me my agents are assembled. Not a word of apology.
But he doesn't take over either.
I guess it's a start.
When we load them into the cars, I'm almost sure Lauren is going to bolt. But she doesn't. “You ready?” I ask her, and she nods.
Scully is the drill seargeant. “All right, everyone. We have a warrant to search the premises for evidence of the sale of restricted manufactured parts. The evidence may be in the form of falsified export licences, parts manifests, communiques. It could be on computer disks or hard copy.”
Man in Black also has something to say. “Once there, when in doubt, ask. We need this to be clean. This is the culmination of a year long investigation. If we don't come out of there today with something proving a connection to the Isfahan, this guy could walk.”
“Lets go,” Scully adds.
Scully turns to Lauren. “Now, it will most likely be in Dorland's office. We'll conduct the search, but we need you to guide us so we need you to be strong, okay?”
Scully's good at this part, I note.
We load into the cars and pull out for HTG.
Busting in is equally fun. Scully pulls out her badge and rounds everyone up. “Everybody stay calm. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ma'am, could you step away from those files, please?”
She and Lauren go into Dorland's office, and I wait outside. And wait. While I'm waiting I fill fifteen boxes full of export paperwork, but there's nothing here.
Scully comes out of Dorland's office at one point and looks at me. The tiniest shake of her head tells me all I need to know.
Tan Suit (who is wearing purple today) and Man in Black come out with boxes too, but Dorland is standing there with the employees, calming everyone down.
“This is all we could find,” says Tan Suit.
It's not enough. “We don't have him. He's not even breaking a sweat.”
“Our case is blown. A wasted year. This guy is going to walk.” They leave.
Blevins is gonna kill me.
So I go into Dorland's office. Is putting fabric on the walls the new thing now? I wouldn't know. My walls are are solid sheetrock.
“Let's get out of here,” says Scully as she leaves with her own box.
Lauren is about to cry. “Lauren, it's over. We have to go. What we're looking for isn't here.” She smashes a picture in it's frame, and I'm tempted to join her. Unfortuneately, Dorland joins us right then too.
“Look! She isn't an agent. I don't want to be uncooperative or combative, but she has no right destroying my personal property.”
Lauren pulls a painting off the wall. “Lauren-” I begin.
“Destroying property? What about that van that blew up and killed those servicemen?”
“Oh, I don't know what you're talking about you stupid bitch!” She rushes at him with a letter opener. Great.
“Lauren, No!” I go to stop her -
But Howard beats me to it.
“He'll kill him. Help us find it!” Lights begin exploding and a tornado moves in. I can hear Scully yelling outside, papers fly through the air, and Lauren's letter opener flies directly into a fabric covered wall. It slides downward, revealing a computer disc.
Buried in the wall.
Scully has a talent for understatement.
I walk to the wall and pull out the disc.
“I guess what we're looking for is here,” I tell her, and I hope she understands that what I just saw had to be a ghost.
Lauren leaves town the next day. We stop by to see her and she's loading up the car at ten o'clock at night. Scully doesn't even bother to try to talk her out of it.
“The US Attorney's office is going after Dorland with everything they've got. Including the murder of Howard Graves,” she tells Laurent instead, which is what we came to tell her anyway.
“I'll come back to testify.”
I get that.
“Where are you going?” I ask her as I help her get the box in the trunk.
“Away from here.” Must be the last box, because she gets in and starts the car. “Thanks.”
So much she could tell us. “Boy, she's in a rush to get out of here.”
“Out of here, or away from the ghost of Howard Graves?” We walk to the car.
Why is it so hard to believe? There's something I've always wondered about her. “Hey, Scully. Do you believe in the afterlife?”
“I'd settle for a life in this one.”
I guess it doesn't matter that she flirts with fifty year old photo lab techs and manipulates young women. She, like me, is just trying to get her life back.
However she can.
“Have you ever seen the liberty bell?”
“Yes.” We get in the car and buckle up.
“You know, I've been to Philadelphia a 100 times and I've never seen it.”
“You're not missing much. It's just a big bell with a big crack, and you have to wait in a long line.”
She wants a life. So do I. Maybe we can have a little piece of one.
“Yeah,” I pull the car into the street, “but I'd really like to go.”
What am I supposed to say? It would take too long to articulate. Too many feelings. Too much that would have to be left unsaid.
And I don't know where to start.
“I don't know. How late do you think they stay open?”